Assemblyman John F. McKeon unveiled a package of bills to ramp up utility infrastructure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy at a news conference on Tuesday at the Department of Public Works (DPW) facility in South Orange.
"It's no accident that we're in South Orange for this announcement," said Village President Alex Torpey, who introduced McKeon, along with DPW Director Tom Michetti. In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Torpey said, a live wire fell across the facility's driveway, trapping DPW staff in the building.
McKeon's proposed legislation is twofold, he said. First, he proposes that the state establish requirements for newly-installed and replacement electric utility poles and transmission towers, he said. The new poles are a higher grade, which means they are stronger and able to withstand greater wind speeds.
Second, McKeon said he would direct the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to adopt those requirements. McKeon said he's still waiting to find out how some of PSE&G's recovery estimates were generated.
“While New Jersey was reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the worst storm to batter the mid-Atlantic and ravage the East Coast in recent history, and which knocked out power from more than 8.5 million homes and businesses, many lessons were learned on how to improve safety in future disasters," McKeon said.
"We were also made increasingly aware of the countless hidden dangers faced by our brave utility line personnel and first responders tasked with rescue and relief operations."
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey spoke in support of the proposed legislation. Elected officials from communities including East Hanover, Millburn, South Orange, Maplewood, and Madison were also in attendance. South Orange Police Chief James Chelel, West Orange Fire Chief Peter F. Smeraldo, Jr., South Orange trustee Howard Levison, and Maplewood Township Committee member Marlon K. Brownlee were also on hand.
Madison Mayor Robert H. Conley spoke of the "Madison miracle." Madison, he explained, owns its utility and was able to respond to the crisis quickly. "We are prepared for the rain," he said, "because of the work we do on sunny days. That's what is happening here, with all of us assembled."